Perfect pitch

7th December 2007 at 00:00
To help pupils understand pitch, try involving them in this listening skills activity.

Collect pairs of objects that can be made to make a sound. They need to be of the same type but significantly different sizes, eg, large and small saucepans to bang, bottles to tap or blow into, or wind chimes to shake. Include some official musical instruments (eg tambours or triangles), but anything will do, as long as you can find examples of each.

In small groups, ask pupils to have a turn on each "instrument" (kinaesthetic). Their challenge is to decide which of each pair makes the lower (or higher) sound (auditory). They could colour differently-sized pictures of the items to indicate their choice (visual).

Pupils should discover that larger objects make lower sounds. The more able could be asked to think why this is. Has the experiment been a fair test? What pitch would they expect to hear from, say a lion and a kitten? A lorry and a Mini? If you have access to a string quartet or a drummer with a full drum kit, this would bring the activity to life

Catherine Legg is a teaching assistant and is completing her graduate teacher programme.

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